Saturday, November 11, 2006

Billionaire Wilbur Ross Makes First India Investment (Update1)

Billionaire Wilbur Ross Makes First India Investment (Update1)

By Thomas Kutty Abraham

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, who made his fortune buying bankrupt steel, coal and textile companies, acquired a textile maker in India, marking his first purchase in the world's second fastest-growing major economy.

Ross, dubbed the ``King of Bankruptcy'' for investing in distressed companies, acquired OCM India Ltd. for $37 million, W.L. Ross & Co. said in a statement today. He set up an office in India's commercial capital Mumbai five months ago.

Ross, 68, is adding India to his portfolio of textile companies, betting increasing demand from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. will lift overseas sales. India's textile exports rose 32 percent to $8.2 billion in the year ended March 31. Ross's International Textile Group has investments in the U.S., Mexico, Latin America, China and Vietnam.

``This could just be a beginning for them. There may be other sectors as well they could look at,'' Jayesh Shroff, a fund manager at SBI Asset Management Co. Ltd. in Mumbai said. ``Prospects for the textile sector are good. There is money to be made if you manage your company well.''

The purchase of OCM India was funded by Ross' $300 million India Asset Recovery Fund L.P., with investment from WLR Recovery Fund III L.P. and Housing Development Finance Corp., India's biggest home-mortgage lender, WL Ross & Co., the investor's New York-based buyout firm, said in a statement today.

``OCM establishes us in India's textile sector and further adds to the resources and synergies of our textile holdings,'' Wilbur L. Ross, the 68-year-old chairman and chief executive of W.L. Ross said. ``We expect rapid growth there in the future.''

Overseas Investment

Overseas investors are pouring funds into India to tap an economy that's expanded at an average 8 percent annually in the three years ended March 31, the second-fastest after China. New Zealand billionaire Chandler brothers agreed to pay 3.02 billion rupees for 4.5 percent of Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd., the Indian securities firm said today.

OCM India, which has 34,000 spindles and 185 looms, sells its tweed and jacket suiting through 60 wholesalers and 1,200 retailers across the country. Ross acquired the entire company from the Asset Reconstruction Company of India, which buys non- performing assets from other banks.

Ross was dubbed the ``Bankruptcy King'' by Fortune magazine in 1998 for investing in industries others had shunned.

Last month, Ross acquired two auto-parts producers for $305 million as part of a plan to form three publicly held companies that will offer plastics, metal parts and safety components to carmakers worldwide.

Ross bought small steelmakers to build International Steel Group Inc., then sold the company to Mittal Steel Co. in April 2005 for $4.5 billion.

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